Players at the top of the game strut their stuff in Aviva Premiership Rugby on a weekly basis but after tirelessly making the game inclusive for people of all abilities, Jeremy Bristoe picked up the Community Champion Award at the All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group Premiership Rugby Community Awards tonight.
The Community Champion Award – in partnership with Land Rover – rewards a person who uses rugby to deliver significant social change or support in their community, something that aptly describes Bristoe.
Nominated by London Welsh, Bristoe is head coach of the Witney Wolves SEN Tag Rugby team which now boasts over 25 members.
The team caters for boys and girls with a range of disabilities including Cerebral palsy, Autism, Down syndrome and Global Developmental Delay.
Bristoe got the nod ahead of five other nominees, all of whom were acclaimed by the panel of judges, receiving his gong at an awards evening at the House of Commons.
One the judges, Lord Holmes of Richmond, who is a non-executive director on the equality and human rights commission, admits the decision was far from an easy one.
"It was a very tough decision – the judges took a longer time over this than any other award because the huge contribution that every nominee was making was really brought through,” he explained.
"But Jeremy just won it on the basis of seeing a need, working with a specific group with a specific need and doing transformational work with them.
"Jeremy is a brilliant winner but the four others have also made an incredible contribution to rugby.
"What was demonstrated was the phenomenal work being done by individuals, volunteering and making a difference to the sport.”
In addition to Bristoe, Bath Rugby nominated Nick Tilley, who is head coach of Chippenham Under-15s while Nick Elbourne, endorsed by London Irish, works tirelessly for Wimborne.
Newcastle Falcons recognised Houghton’s Chris Simpson, Leicester Tigers volunteer Eric Barker was nominated by the East Midlands club and Saracens’ Sheila Coulthard was also up for the gong.
And Lord Holmes insists that any of the six nominees would have been incredibly worthy winners.
"It was an extraordinary list of individuals with a big variety of contributions to rugby and it was an incredibly difficult decision that really demonstrated the huge difference volunteers make in sport,” he added.
"They demonstrated that sport is nothing without volunteers and hopefully that will motivate and inspire those who aren’t involved with sport to get involved and volunteer.
"It demonstrated the sheer triumph of the human spirit, extraordinary stories and the difference that can be made at a community level.”